Recently I found out a person I care a great deal about had left a job with the town I was stunned. This was an important job and this person really loved it. I checked in and when I was told what had happened my jaw dropped. Then I found out there was a group of women who had all been harassed out of their jobs. Since I did not know most of them I reached out and talked to them and was shocked. They each had a terrible story to tell.
In recent years voting for Democrats has been a norm for me especially since the Tea Party came to life. But after talking to numerous people I decided to support the Republican candidate in my town. In addition, when a discussion began on a neighborhood site I spoke out. Many people were upset about retribution against the Town Court staff after they filed a complaint about not having a light outside the court door when they left late in the evening. Then again people were upset with a nasty political flyer which suggested that the young woman running on the Republican line was racist.
When I got home from vacation I found that the staff of the Senior Center had been replaced with wives of Town Board members. When I inquired about their credentials I found they have none. They are trying but really? The Board could not find professionals for those positions?
A call came to me recently suggesting that maybe I was representing one of the many organizations I belong to when I was speaking out. That was totally false since politics has never come up with those folks. But as a result of that call I spent a few days examining my conscience. What is driving me to care about this negative behavior and these frightened ex-employees?
I spent a few days off thinking about where my passion for defending those who are afraid to defend themselves come from. The following will explain where my passion comes from.
First, I realized that Catholic social teaching is my first influence. Since the late 1970’s I have been involved in various organizations in my Church which promote Catholic Church social justice teachings. So I guess you could say St. Kateri’s Church is one of my great influences and our current Pope Francis. Based on the teachings in the New Testament I believe that all people should be treated with respect and dignity. And those in charge with the power have an obligation to treat their workers well. And when those in the community realize that those in power are abusing that power and abusing their workers they are obligated to speak up. And if you work in a situation where abuse is going on you have an obligation to speak up. That appears not to be the case in our town. Our Town Board has sat back and allowed the Supervisor to act out against various employees over the last few years and have not said a word.
Secondly, I have a genetic predisposition to speaking out when there is abuse or injustice. Now please don’t laugh but I have grandparents on all sides who would not tolerate injustice. First I had thought about James Vint Laughland. My Grandfather who fought in England for dock workers rights and other labor rights in the 1920’s. Then in the US he worked for the laborers who were out of work during the depression, setting up sites where trades people could exchange work for food, or other needs. This helped people to feed their families until things got better. He is a very strong role model in my life.. He was so passionate that the Unitarian Church would not let him preach.
Then there is my Irish side. All the way back to the 1830s my O’Connor grands were not afraid to speak out. Daniel was the first who was known in his community as a person others would come to to as an impartial judge to settle disagreements. This as a Catholic in a primarily Protestant community. Then his son, Charles, when the priest told him he should not be attending the funerals, weddings etc of his neighbors in Protestant churches, informed the Priest that these were the members of his community that he depended on and who depended on him to support each other during the good times and bad.
Recently I learned that my Grandfather was called in by the Archbishop who told him to stop my mother from marrying my father because it was not good example for a community leader to allow his daughter to marry the son of a protestant Minister. My Grandfather thanked the Bishop for his opinion and told him that they could always arrange for his daughter to be married in another place. I was so proud when I heard this.
So, even though under the current political climate in this country at this time I have decided I will be voting for the Republican candidate and her team. I was fortunate recently to meet Ms Syed and found her to be open and honest and aware of all the bad things that had been happening in our town. And I will speak out because I am speaking for myself and my first amendment right to speak out. The efforts of the other side to try and silence me is offensive. If they want to get someone to get me to stop speaking they probably should be talking to the folks at St. Kateri’s. They are the organization that leads me to act.
I doubt even then if I would change my position. I once worked for a bully who everyone was scared of because they were afraid of retribution if they spoke up. It took me a couple of months to get out of that job but what I did learn was that those beneath who stayed or had been there a long time had adopted his attitude in order to keep their jobs. They were all complicit in allowing his terrible behavior to continue. I refused to work in that setting any longer than I had to.
That is what moves me to speak out.